Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade; Stravinsky: Song of the Nightingale

Reviewed on Tue 02 Jul, 2013

In the early years of stereo, the Chicago Symphony under the great Hungarian maestro Fritz Reiner (1891-1963) set down a whole series of legendary discs for RCA, among the most rewarding of which must be this pungently characterised, glitteringly colourful and (above all) ravishingly sensuous account of Rimsky-Korsakov's enduringly popular symphonic suite. Reiner directs with exhilarating flair and phenomenal control, yet there's also heaps of flexibility and narrative fantasy on show. Some may accuse of him of rather gilding the lily in the headily beautiful third movement (“The Young Prince and the Young Princess”), but he more than makes amends in the storm-tossed final tableau, where the giddy virtuosity of the orchestral playing has to be heard to be believed. As for the Stravinsky coupling, it's hard to imagine it can ever have enjoyed more dazzlingly secure or sheerly alluring advocacy. RCA's astonishingly vivid Living Stereo sound still takes the breath away. What are you waiting for?
–Andrew Achenbach